Going Yard: Highs, lows of opening weekend

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 19, 2013 

University of South Carolina's Graham Saiko hustles to third base against Liberty in the sixth inning at Carolina Stadium. Saiko scored later in the inning.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com

South Carolina’s opening three-game series against Liberty entered the books after Sunday’s chilly doubleheader. Let’s take a quick look back at the highs and lows of the three games.

THUMBS UP

Chad Holbrook and Ray Tanner

Holbrook, who’s only the program’s fourth head coach since 1970, registered his first wins running the team after 19 seasons as an assistant at USC and North Carolina. Tanner, who’s now the school’s athletics director, had his No. 1 jersey retired in honor of his 738 wins, 14 NCAA tournament appearances, six College World Series trips, and two national championships.

THUMBS DOWN

Infield defense

Shortstop Joey Pankake and third baseman Chase Vergason both made a pair of errors over the first two games.

GOOD NEWS

Redshirt senior left-handers Adam Westmoreland and Nolan Belcher both showed they may be ready to contribute in their final go-around. Westmoreland picked up the victory in relief in the 8-7 win with 2 1/3 solid innings. Belcher took the loss in the final game, but he worked 5 2/3 innings and allowed just four hits with one walk while striking out nine.

BAD NEWS

The hitting was somewhat anemic with a .210 average (17-for-81) and just three extra-base hits, as Holbrook experimented with three different batting orders.

On Monday, the Gamecocks learned that backup outfielder Ahmad Christian has a stress fracture in his lower back and will miss a minimum of four weeks. Center fielder Tanner English broke his nose during Sunday's doubleheader but is not expected to miss any games.

JUST THE FACTS

With the 4-3 win over Liberty, the Gamecocks have won 15 consecutive Opening Day games dating back to 1999. That ups USC’s all-time record on Opening Day to 83-38.

Six newcomers made their USC debuts -- one junior college transfer in Graham Saiko and five freshmen in Curt Britt, Shon Carson, Ahmad Christian, Max Schrock and Jack Wynkoop.

Senior captain LB Dantzler hit the only home run of the series – in his first at-bat of the season Friday night -- for the Gamecocks. He hit 10 last year and is the team’s leading returning power threat.

UP NEXT

... Friday, Albany, 3 p.m., Carolina Stadium

... Saturday, Albany, 1:30 p.m., Carolina Stadium

... Sunday, Albany, 1:30 p.m., Carolina Stadium

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